VII. The Move to Stanberry
It seemed inevitable that the Church of God headquarters would move to Stanberry, Missouri. The thrust of the work had long before been centered in northwestern Missouri. The building at Marion which had long been the publishing headquarters of the Advent and Sabbath Advocate was sold in 1886 for $1,200.1
And during the Fourth Annual Session of the General Conference, held at Stanberry, beginning October 28, 1887, Jacob Brinkerhoff resigned the editorship. A.C. Long immediately became the editor and publisher, beginning with the November 15th issue.
The new General Conference Committee was composed of W.C. Long of Stanberry, A.C. Long of Marion, and John Branch of Wayland, Michigan. The fourth session of the General Conference, which initiated these changes, is believed to have been the first one at Stanberry.2
The General Conference had agreed to support A.C. Long financially for a year when he was appointed publisher and editor. He bought the equipment and continued to produce the paper from Marion. Because issues of the paper are missing from May of 1888 to May of 1892, it is difficult to determine the precise nature of events during the move from Marion to Stanberry.
According to the August 12, 1963 Bible Advocate, the first issue to be printed in Stanberry was that of June 26, 1888, showing that A.C. Long did not last a year as editor at Marion. A notation in the Marion church records shows that by October 13, 1889, the Advocate had already been moved to Stanberry, and the editorship had changed to W.C. Long.3
According to S.J. Kauer, the change in editorship and office occurred in the summer of 1889. A.C. Long's health was bad, and it was thought best for him to move to a warmer climate. So W.C. Long, who lived in Stanberry, bought the equipment from his brother and moved it to Stanberry, where he began publishing the Church of God paper. "At this time - 1889," Kauer reports, "Stanberry was the center of the rapidly growing work of the Church of God in Missouri. It was also the location of the home of W.C. Long. There seem to be the reasons for the move from Marion, Iowa."4
W.C. Long secured a building for the machinery, which was later so arranged that the upper story was used as a meeting place for the church.
Another innovation was the change in the name of the paper. From Advent and Sabbath Advocate, the name was changed to Sabbath Advocate and Herald of the Advent. The paper was now issued weekly, by the General Conference of the Church of God, Stanberry, Missouri, and the General Conference Committee of A.C. and W.C. Long, and J.C. Branch.5
Steam Press Increases Activity
Previously, the paper had always been published by use of a hand press. However, beginning in October of 1892, the Advocate was printed by a steam press, acquired for $130. A larger steam press was purchased in October, 1900. In the June 21, 1892 issue, Jasper Moore stated that according to W.C. Long, the Advocate office had printed 1,064,000 pages of tracts, presumably still on the hand press. With the acquisition of the steam press, the possibilities of expansion were greatly increased.
The Church of God, Incorporated
Legal incorporation had apparently been discussed previously. At the 16th Annual Session of the Church of God General Conference, a committee of three, B.F. Whisler, M.A. Branch, and G.T. Rodgers, were appointed to consider the matter of incorporation. Their report in favor of legal organization was carried, and the January 2, 1900 issue of the Sabbath Advocate stated: "The General Conference of the Church of God is now incorporated. Articles, by-laws, etc., of incorporation will appear in the General Conference report which will be issued in pamphlet form and be ready for distribution in ten days. Price 10 cents."6
Final Change of Name of the Paper
At the following annual Conference, the 17th, held at Stanberry, December 6, 1900, it was decided to change the name of the paper from Sabbath Advocate and Herald of the Coming Kingdom to Bible Advocate and Herald of the Coming Kingdom, the name that has continued to this day. N.A. Wells became editor, and W.C. Long stepped down to become office editor and business manager.7
Thus, by the turn of the century, the Church of God and the Bible Advocate had acquired much of their present form, and the seeds of further growth were already sprouting.
Church of God Work To 1900
The Church of God made great strides in growth during the last years of the last century. In 1892, George Batten and Company's Directory of the Religious Press of the United States took notice of the Sabbath Advocate. It stated that the paper was an eight-page weekly published in Stanberry, Missouri, and had been established in 1865 [sic.]. Its editor then was W.C. Long and the circulation was about 1000 copies. A year's subscription was priced at $2.00. The church also published The Sabbath School Missionary, twice a month, 50 cents a year, with Edwin H. Wilbur, editor. The directory reported that this paper had been established in 1884, and had a circulation of 460.8
(It is interesting to note that by late 1969, the circulation of the Advocate had grown to only 2,225.)9
According to the Eleventh Census (1890), the "Church of God (Adventist)" had 29 churches and 647 members. One of its churches had a building seating 200, and was valued at $1,400. Also, the Church of God at this time had 19 ministers.10
In the spring of 1896, W.C. Long reported that over 100 converts had been made since the 1895 General Conference meeting.11
To show the spread and growth of the Church of God in the years just preceding 1900, the following give some evidence:
Song Book Published
E.G. Blackmon of Neosho, Missouri, a former Seventh-Day Adventist minister, was converted through the efforts of W.C. Long in 1886. He was a songwriter and became a leading minister in the Church of God. By January of 1893 he had prepared a church hymnal called "Songs of Truth." Most of the hymns therein, the music as well as the words, were composed by Blackmon. The new church hymnal went through several revisions and "the black book" continued to be used for many years by the Church of God. As Kiesz stated, "The songs were slanted toward truth so that our people could freely sing them, not only with the spirit but with the understanding also." Blackmon died in 1912.12
Cranmer and Branches Continue in Michigan
Gilbert Cranmer and the Branches in Michigan continued to be mentioned in the Advocate. In 1887, at the age of 73, Cranmer held a meeting which resulted in 22 signing a church covenant. In reporting his efforts in the Advocate, Cranmer remarked, "I would rather wear out than rust out."13 At 86, Cranmer was still hale and hearty. He died in late 1903 at the Church of God hospital and sanatorium at White Cloud, Michigan.
Sanatorium at White Cloud
A Church of God sanatorium was established at White Cloud, Michigan, around 1900. In accordance with the Seventh-Day Adventist practice of instituting hospitals and emphasizing bodily health and medicine, it appears that the Michigan brethren led a Church of God effort to establish a hospital. J.C. Branch became a medical doctor, and in the May 17, 1898 issue, he suggested that the Church of God build a sanatorium at White Cloud. The rest of the church seemed to support his move; the Stanberry church even subscribed the furnishing and keeping of a room in the White Cloud Hospital and Sanatorium, as it was called, known as the Stanberry Room. By September 25, 1900, the building was nearly finished, and sixty-six surgical operations had been performed. Elder Gilbert Cranmer became one of its patients and died there. Dr. J.C. Branch directed the sanatorium, assisted by two other doctors and three nurses.
The April 2, 1901 issue reported that the Sanatorium was a three-story, brick building. Micropal and chemical examinations were made to determine the cause of each patient's disease. Curative treatment included dietetics, Branch reported, while the "up to date laboratory" was used to fill prescriptions for the patients, "when it is found that medicine is necessary."
Vinton, Iowa; Stanberry; Hartford, Michigan; and the Nebraska and South Dakota Conferences provided money to furnish rooms in the hospital.
Little is heard of the Church of God Sanatorium at White Cloud after 1900. One reason is that the Michigan Church of God drifted away from the General Conference until in 1917 most of them joined with the Seventh Day Baptists.
Kiesz reports that at the turn of the century, there was a Normal School and a Sanatorium at Stanberry, which later became extinct. However, the indication is that they were not direct projects of the Church of God. The 1902 General Conference discussed the possibility of establishing a Church of God "Academy."14
Church of God member M.J. Vanderschuur reported in the October 16, 1900 issue of the opening of an orphanage or children's home at his place in Kenwood Park, Iowa.15
West Virginia Church of God
In 1887 appears the first mention in the Advocate of Church of God activity in West Virginia. A Seventh-Day Adventist state meeting was held at Kanawha Station, West Virginia on May 18, 1887. The meeting was held because some Seventh-Day Adventists, such as Elder Chaffee, had refused to preach for the visions of Mrs. White, and a division was threatened. Emory Robinson and his wife, and six more, including Henry L. Lowe and wife, were put out of the Seventh-Day Adventist church for refusing to accept the visions. They were subscribers to the Advocate, and though not claiming to be Church of God members in 1887, wrote a letter commending the Advocate because "it is not always calling other commandment keepers evil names."16
Dugger, in his History of the True Church, refers to a Church of God established in Wilbur, West Virginia in 1859, by Elder J.W. Niles, who came from Erie, Pennsylvania. Derisively called "Nilesites" by their enemies, this group was said to have kept the Passover on the 14th of Nisan.17
Church of God in Oklahoma
Cherokee Strip, Oklahoma was opened up for settlers in 1893. Among the early settlers were some Church of God Sabbatarians, the Wells, Websters, Hortons and Helsons. Elder J.R. Goodenough came to Oklahoma in 1896, holding services in the area, and adding new Sabbath-keepers. Elder S.S. Davison, who appeared in the Advocate of 1892 from Woodward, Iowa, moved to Oklahoma in 1899, as did the Sheffields and the Baums. During World War I the Cherokee Strip area Sabbath-keepers bought a meetinghouse from the Mennonites, as a permanent church was established.
The Fairview Church of God Sabbath School is reported to be the oldest in the state, with Claremore a close runner-up. J.H. Hinds founded the latter group, when he moved to Inola in 1905, and began preaching the Church of God message.
Until 1905, the Church of God in Oklahoma was associated with the Missouri Conference. An Oklahoma Conference was formed at a meeting held on September 2 and 3, 1905 at the Golden Valley School House near Fairview, Oklahoma. Officers elected were:
President C.C. Wells
Vice-President Frank Miller
Secretary Blanche Sheffield
Treasurer Eber Davidson18
German-Speaking Brethren Church of God in Nebraska and the Dakotas
The first mention in the Advocate of Church of God work in South Dakota comes in November, 1892. There it was announced that a Northwestern Nebraska and South Dakota Conference of the Church of God had been formed. A Quarterly Conference of the Church of God was held at Bonesteel, Gregory County, South Dakota on December 2, 1892.
The third annual session was held, September 27, 1895 at Bassett, Nebraska. J.A. Nugent was Secretary of the conference, and it was noted that most of the members lived within 10 to 15 miles of Bassett. Bassett, Nebraska was the home of Elder A.F. Dugger, and his son A.N. Dugger. In 1896, Elder L.L. Presler was working in Nebraska, and a Brother Ellis in South Dakota.
In 1898, unknown to A.F. Dugger and the other Church of God people in Bassett, Nebraska, a German-speaking Church of God was organized near Eureka, South Dakota, in the northern part of the state. A minister named Halbesleben, formerly a Free Methodist preacher in Minnesota, moved to the Dakotas, and having accepted the Sabbath, began to work among the Seventh-Day Adventists. His preaching emphasized "holiness or sanctification as a second experience, that is, another experience with God besides conversion." The result was the breaking up of a number of Seventh-Day Adventist churches in both the Dakotas, and the formation of several independent Churches of God, including Eureka. In other words, Halbesleben was pentecostal, preaching about the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." John Kiesz reports that Halbesleben was against "speaking in tongues," although some people during the sermons were "taken possession of by the Holy Spirit." This explains why John Kiesz and other Germans in the Church of God tended to be "pentecostal." Kiesz' father, Philip Kiesz, was one of the leaders in the Eureka church.
For about twenty years, members met in homes for services, under the leadership of Philip Kiesz, Sr., and John Brenneise, Sr. A large group of younger people, including John Kiesz, became converted in 1910, and in 1918 a church building was erected five miles north of Eureka. Kiesz, Brenneise, Frederic Miller, George Dais, Sr., and Peter Schrenk were trustees. Later, in 1925 the church elders were Christ Kiesz and John B. Brenneise.
It was not until late 1923 that the group, calling itself the Church of God, came into contact with the Stanberry General Conference. R.P. Bossert of Montana, an Advocate subscriber, sent an issue to Eureka, which opened up the way for eventual union with Stanberry. Early in the spring of 1924, Elder A.N. Dugger was invited to hold services in Eureka and council with them on doctrinal points. There were a few differences, but Eureka soon became a General Conference member, and held its first campmeeting in 1925.19
Dugger wrote of his contact with these German brethren in the March 4, 1924 Advocate. He reports his visit to a church of 100 people in Roscoe, South Dakota, who had been Sabbath-keepers and holders to the name Church of God for more than 20 years. "They did not know of anyone else holding to the faith as they, except a few small companies . . . ." Dugger reported that the church had no regular minister, but the leading brethren spoke in turn, viz., John B.; Jacob A.; Henry A. and Daniel B. Brenneise; Christes and Philip Kiesz; Jacob Dais; and John Schrenk. The older pioneer members were Johannes Brenneise, Philip Kiesz, Fred K. Miller, George Dais, and Peter Schrenk. They were said to believe that Jesus was the Son of God (and not God himself), a Wednesday crucifixion, Sabbath resurrection, the 1,000 year reign on the earth, unconscious state of the dead, destruction of the wicked, and other doctrines similar to the Church of God. They wanted the Church of God General Conference to recognize them as one of its churches, but Dugger wanted to wait a while in order for them to thoroughly understand what the church believed.20
Brenneise and Christ Kiesz preached in Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia, as well as several states. Thus it was that the Church of God contained many German-speaking members. Soon after 1925, a German Bible Advocate was started, with Christ Kiesz editor, and Bossert, Brenneise, and John Kiesz contributing editors. Kulm, Alfred, and Cleveland, North Dakota and Fellon and Glasgow, Montana, were prime mission fields.
North Dakota Church of God
Possibly even before the 1898 establishment of the Eureka, South Dakota Church of God, William Halbesleben established a church about twenty miles south of Kulm, North Dakota. About twelve or fourteen families began keeping the Sabbath, meeting in various homes. The Schlenker family, and the Moldenhauers later, were among the members. The Henry Schlenkers later moved to Alfred, where a church developed. Alfred, North Dakota, was also the home of a Seventh Day Baptist church.21
Parkston, South Dakota - Independent Church of God
The Church of God General Conference, organized in 1883-84, never contained all the Sabbath-keeping churches of God. One of the independent groups was at Parkston, South Dakota. Some of these members later moved to form the Lodi, California, Church of God.
About 1876, a group of German immigrants from Russia began keeping the Sabbath at Parkston, South Dakota. They formed a congregation called the "Seventh Day Church of God." Its first elder was Henry Baumbach, who was succeeded by his son John. In 1908, a portion of this German church left South Dakota for Lodi, California. There, Henry Baumbach, Jr., served as elder for more than twenty years. The Lodi church was torn by dissensions through its years. In 1960 two factions of the church united. Elder Leo Merriam became pastor, Claude Ellis assisting. John Brenneise and Joseph Reuscher were also elders at this time.
Besides the doctrines of the Sabbath, Ten Commandments, Water Baptism, and Salvation through Christ alone, the main element of the Lodi's doctrine was local autonomy. Charles Monroe reports that the Lodi church never has been part of any conference, and was a "free" church.22
It has been reported that "The church is not subject to any national organization, but is governed strictly by local autonomy with every qualified member having equal voice and vote. The importance of brotherly love is stressed at all times."23
Elder Merriam stated that in the new earth, God's people will be governed by Christ. "Until that time, however, a democracy is the only form of government that will succeed in a church, if the people are to be free, happy, and get along together."24
"Getting along together," or rather, the lack of it, has been one of the recurring themes in Church of God history. The independent nature of Church of God Sabbatarians has resulted in one schism and division after another, and at the turn of the century, this issue begins to take on major significance.
Church of God in Oregon, Louisiana and Pennsylvania
Also previous to 1900, the Church of God had expanded its message into far reaching areas from the Stanberry headquarters.
On October 25, 1894, the Second Annual Meeting of the Church of God in Louisiana was held at Hope Villa. B.F. Purdham, B.C. Causey, and H.G. Roberts were on the Executive Committee.
An H.W. Barnes, former Seventh-Day Adventist minister, had started a work in Salem, Oregon in the spring of 1884. By the fall of 1894, an Oregon Conference of the Church of God was held in the Cole School House, Linn County. Some of the Pacific Coast ministers were Elders: R.H. Sherrill, H.M. Anderson, J.H. Sperry, J.W. Beatty, C.E. Whisler, and W.L. Raymond
A Pennsylvania Church of God meeting was held, November 1 and 2, 1895, at Geneva, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, presided over by William M. Darrow. J.W. Niles of Edinboro, Pennsylvania and Brother Wing of Blockville, New York were expected to preach during the meeting.25
Ministers, Circa 1900
Contributing editors of the Advocate in 1895 were listed as: S.S. Davison, A.F. Dugger, A.C. Long, and Jacob Brinkerhoff. These were four important Church of God ministers of this period.
In 1896, there were these Church of God ministers working in scattered parts of the country:
L.L. Presler Nebraska
L.J. Branch Michigan
Jacob Wilbur Arkansas
R.H. Sherrill Oregon
A.F. Dugger Bassett, Nebraska
M.B. Ellis South Dakota
J.C. Bartlett Missouri and Iowa
Church of God credentialed ministers in 1899 were:
W.C. Long, A.C. Long, A.C. Leard, Jasper Moore, D.M. Spencer, Z.V. Black, E.G. Blackmon, Jacob Wilbur, N.A. Wells, S.S. Davison, R.E. Caviness, S.W. Mentzer, E.S. Sheffield, J.R. Goodenough, L.L. Presler, Hiram Ward, A.F. Dugger, J.A. Nugent, J.T. Johnson, H.P. Peck, S. Pope, M.B. Ellis, J.C. Branch, M.D., L.J. Branch, M.S. Carlisle, M.A. Branch, W.H. Sloan, L.A. Wing, J.W. Niles, Hiram Harris, J.W. Sperry, H.T. Whitehall, F.C. Pixley, F.P. Kennedy, James Shingleton, Levi Watkins, Gilbert Cranmer, M.J. Vanderschuur, J.W. Beatty, S.P. Loop, A.P. Bacon, R.H. Sherrill, L.J. Herriman.
In the year 1900, A.C. Long, perhaps the leading Church of God minister since the 1870's, died of brain fever at his home in Brownsdale, Missouri. A Church of God member since the 1860's, Long was born in Perry County, Pennsylvania, September 15, 1846. Previous to his taking over the press in Iowa (1887), Long preached for several
months in San Francisco and other points on the Pacific Coast. After he relinquished the editorship due to ill health, he again went to the Pacific Coast for a time.
Also in 1900 Michael W. Unzicker (1873-1956) was ordained.
The December 18, 1900 issue of the Bible Advocate, the first with the new name, listed Newman A. Wells as editor, W.C. Long as office editor and business manager, and A.F. Dugger, S.S. Davison, J.R. Goodenough and J.C. Branch as contributing editors.26
Team of Wells and W.C. Long
Newman A. Wells (1848-1923), who was editor of the Advocate in 1900, had moved to Maysville (Marysville?), Missouri in 1865. In the early 1870's he became a Baptist. However, in the autumn of 1878, he heard the Sabbath preached and united with the Church of God. Along with Elder W.C. Long, he held meetings in northwestern Missouri for about ten years. They preached in churches and school houses in the winter, and in tents during the summer. Wells preached in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Michigan and Louisville, Kentucky.27 W
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